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Book Review: The Case of Rose Bird

Rose BirdThe Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts
By Kathleen A. Cairns
Reviewed by Richard Schulke, Reference Librarian

The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts is a timely look at political activism aimed at members of the Judiciary. It recounts the circumstances that led to the removal of Rose Bird as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

This book begins by looking at Rose Bird’s early triumphs during high school and law school, followed by her milestone achievements as the first female law clerk for the Nevada Supreme Court, the first female deputy public defender in Santa Clara County, and the first woman to hold a cabinet position in California.

The book follows Bird’s appointment to the position of Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977 by a then forty-year-old Governor Jerry Brown—she was both the Court’s first female justice and its first female Chief Justice—and then a series of three attempts to recall her. The attempts ultimately succeeded, and in November of 1986 she was the first Chief Justice of California to be recalled by the voters.

The author examines the then-current politics that made Bird a lightning rod—her liberalism, gender, and the perception that she was soft on crime. The author also takes an in-depth look at Bird’s political opponents and the take-no-prisoner attitude that ultimately resulted in her downfall through political machinations. It is as chilling now as it was then.

The description of Bird’s final years as a broken person battling unsuccessfully against medical issues and early death is a sad ending to her story.

Current events make clear that the issue of “Judicial Politics” is still a hot potato. We recently witnessed both the removal of Judge Aaron Persky following his controversial decision to impose a sentence of only six months for a Stanford student convicted of rape, and the political maneuvering during the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. This fascinating exploration of Rose Bird and the turbulent beginning of judicial politics in California is still just as relevant today.

The Case of Rose Bird was generously donated to the Library by John Kelly.


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November Book of the Month: Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly

Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the ElderlyTax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly
By John J. Regan, Rebecca C. Morgan, David M. English & H. Amos Goodall, Jr.
Reviewed by Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

In June of this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced that she doesn’t plan to retire for at least another five years, when she will be 90. She is one not defined by her age, but by the force of her being, good health, and personal strength.

For the rest of those who are looking ahead to retirement or facing changes in their way of life, finances, health, and control as they age, no book would be a better start than this one volume. It has no fancy cover, no pictures, and no forms. But it does contain a wealth of information aimed at both individuals looking for answers within the maze of legal and financial issues that arise, and attorneys developing the highly specialized practice of Elder Law with practical techniques and insight into the intertwining of issues and family context. Indeed, the very organization of the book keeps both parts of the practice clearly in sight. Each chapter begins with a short synopsis of the topic, with the kind of basic questions everyone wants to know (such as, how does a ROTH IRA differ from a traditional IRA? See § 2.06), and then expands into a full analysis of the type of asset protection, governmental or private benefit program, along with legal and psychological issues, and citations to statutes, regulations, cases, and other authority for additional research. It is an impressive source for both attorney and client.

Individual chapters address the major areas of law and top areas of concern: Social Security Benefits; Veterans’ Benefits; Private Pensions; Income Tax; Housing Concerns; Property Management during Incapacity; Health Care Rights and Decisions; Nursing Homes; Guardians and Conservators, Estate Planning, and Elder Abuse. Each topic includes a thorough summary of rights, a clear organization and analysis of the distinctions within a complex benefits program, such as Social Security, SSI, or Medicaid, which provides a clarity that is hard to find—not too simplified to be useful, and not just litigation-based to limit the kind of information that a full counseling requires. Tax issues are folded in as an intrinsic aspect of each topic, and a separate chapter on Financial Planning includes an extensive checklist to both assist clients and to aid the attorney in being comprehensive in making suggestions and building a strategy together.

person writing on paper

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The authors consistently emphasize the role of communication and counseling. This defined approach is infused with a depth of empathy and psychological awareness of the fact that the primary goal of most clients is to maintain personal autonomy over their lives, and that the financial and legal issues that come up should be approached with that goal of empowerment. The publication is bookended by a first chapter on counseling the client and an introduction to the special focus required for elder law issues—including the need to create a productive atmosphere in the office to best exchange information—and ends with a last chapter on ethical issues and representation. Throughout, the authors describe building a relationship between attorney and client where the attorney provides information not only on the specific issue brought to the meeting, but also includes other useful information and resources, such as how to organize documents, disaster planning, and information on local community and agency services, senior centers, and other supportive organizations. It sets a high standard for the type and level of competence needed for an elder law practice, including a deep and wide knowledge about private and governmental benefit programs, legal and tax issues, financial planning—all connected to a wider social context, for the fullest representation possible.

For individuals bravely looking ahead on their own, this is also a source to light the way.

Tax, Estate, and Financial Planning for the Elderly is available in print at the San Francisco Law Library. A wide range of other elder law materials, including CA-specific treatises and various model forms can be found on the San Francisco Law Library’s LibGuide to elder law—or ask a Reference Librarian.


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Beat the MCLE Rush This November

Beat the rush and double your self-study MCLE in November!

The Law Library has more than 100 self-study MCLE programs available for checkout. Typically, five programs may be borrowed at one time, but during the month of November we are doubling the checkout limit. Get ahead of the curve and borrow up to 10 programs at once! Topics include Legal Ethics, Competence Issues, the Elimination of Bias, estate planning, family law, litigation strategy, real estate, and much more.

Use our MCLE LibGuide to get started:


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November Book Drive

Book Drive

Each month we will seek donors to purchase a new title for the Law Library. Here is our Wish List for the month of November, featuring books on workplace sexual harassment, the hardest decisions judges have made, and the criminal justice system. Growing our collection is about so much more than a single book—it is a living demonstration of how the Library expands the public’s access to justice and provides legal practitioners with the tools they need to represent members of our local community. Please see our Donation Guide for more ways to support the Law Library.

Sexual Harassment A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace

Sexual Harassment: A Guide to a Harassment-Free Workplace
Written by Kathleen Kapusta
$39.95, Paperback, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-54380-528-4

Tough Cases

Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made
Edited by Russell F. Canan, Gregory E. Mize, and Frederick H. Weisberg
$26.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62097-386-8

Youre Under Arrest

You’re Under Arrest!
Understanding the Criminal Justice System

by Margaret C. Jasper
$29.99, Hardcover, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9841404-0-4

To donate, please contact sflawlibrary@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-1791.  We appreciate your contribution!


Recent Book Drive Donations

Thank you to John Kelly for generously donating The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts.

Thank you to Suzanne P. Marria for generously donating To End a Presidency.

Thank you to Shannon K. Mauer for generously donating the ABA’s Women in Law Book Bundle, which includes The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law FirmsGrit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women LawyersZero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession; and Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

Please take a look at our Book Drive page to see Wish List items from prior months. We are still wishing for these books!

Thank you for your support!